Deep under the North Atlantic, scientists have discovered a rare system of smoking volcanic vents and three-story "chimneys," according to scientists aboard the research vessel Celtic Explorer.
A hotbed of "evolution in overdrive," the site teems with strange animals that have been living there "perhaps for a millennium," said marine biologist Jon Copley. "And we're the first to see this place."
The vent field lies along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an undersea mountain range extending the length of the Atlantic that's created by the slow separation oftectonic plates.
"It exists at the bottom of this steep, 650-foot [200-meter] fault escarpment." The teams remotely operated vehicle (ROV) "descended down the side of this cliff—and the side of the cliff was coated in bacterial slime—until we could see plumes of smoke coming up from below, and we found the chimneys reaching up," added Wheeler, a geologist at Ireland's University College, Cork.
Deep-sea chimneys are created when volcanically heated water carries metal sulfides up from below the seafloor. As the minerals pile up, the knobby towers take form
Read the rest of the National Geographic article HERE.